From Publishers Weekly
"When people get started dancing and having a good time, they don't care what color you are," reflected Herbert Hardesty, one of Antoine "Fats" Domino's band members, on the ability of Domino's music to break through the color barrier in postwar America. It is a recurring theme in Coleman's biography, as are, not surprisingly, segregation and mainstream society's reception to rock 'n' roll, particularly songs by African Americans. Based on interviews and years of research, Coleman's book is well-written and full of lively details about life on the road, recording sessions and how things worked in Domino's inner circle. After making quick work of Domino's grandparents and childhood, Coleman begins a chronological journey through Domino's life, peppering his narrative with important events in music and the civil rights movement. Although Coleman touches lightly on some of Domino's irresponsible behavior-his drinking, womanizing and ambivalence to curtain times set the mold by which later rock stars would be cast-the book borders on hagiography. Also, Coleman's suggestions that the earliest African-American performers of rock 'n' roll are largely forgotten and that there still persists a myth that it all began with Elvis are outmoded at best. However, Coleman's book succeeds as a warm tribute to an American music icon.
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Coleman launches the first book-length biography of a New Orleans legend by contending that Fats Domino's 1949 "thunderous rocker," "The Fat Man," has a more legitimate claim than Elvis Presley's "That's All Right" to being the first rock 'n' roll song. He argues that Domino's seminal role in rock history is underappreciated, and it's genuinely easy to agree with him. Coleman intertwines Domino's biography and the story of an American society changing in the 1940s and 1950s so that race and pop music often merged. Domino became a reliable hit maker on the mainstream charts and a smiling TV presence, which was then still odd for an African American. Fats' indomitable spirit pervades the book, even in discussions of his gambling problems, inspiriting the story of an excellent musician who provided a link between such older Crescent City R&B giants as Professor Longhair and young rockers like Ernie K-Doe. Fats Domino's story is central to rock history, making this a must for the pop music shelves. Mike TribbyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved